Presenting the 2024 TN Poetry Out Loud State Finals Judges

From Julia Stark, Arts Learning Specialist – 

With excitement building for the Tennessee Poetry Out Loud State Finals, we’d like to introduce you to the talented judges. This year’s panel brings a wealth of experience and diverse perspectives to the table, ensuring a fair and insightful evaluation of our competitors’ performances.

Emily Skaja

Emily Skaja’s first book, Brute, won the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets (Graywolf Press, 2019). She holds an MFA from Purdue University and a PhD from the University of Cincinnati. Her poems have been published in Best New Poets, Blackbird, and the New York Times Magazine, and she is the recipient of fellowships from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Emily is the founding editor of the Poetry Prompt Generator, an online resource for poets and educators. She teaches in the Creative Writing MFA program at the University of Memphis.

Jacquelyn Swift

Jacquelyn Swift is an author, an English Professor at TSU, and a Spoken Word artist. With her MFA in creative writing, she has spent years mastering the craft of the written word, teaching poetry in the Metro Nashville School Systems as a part of Nashville’s own Southern Word Poetry Organization, and training performance poets. When she isn’t featured on stage or trying to inspire a classroom of sleepy college freshmen, she is hiding at the library or bookstore with her iced coffee and laptop.

Terry Weber

Terry Weber is the Managing Director of The WordPlayers and Professor Emeritus of Theatre at UT (retired after 31 years). Terry has worked as a voice/text/dialect coach at PlayMakers Rep, Round House Theatre, Great River Shakespeare Festival, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, North Carolina Stage Company, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Clarence Brown Theatre, and the Vermont Stage Company. Terry’s acting career has taken him to theatres in New York, Seattle, Milwaukee, Louisville, Chicago, Kansas City, Montgomery, Knoxville, Toronto, Orlando, Charleston, Asheville, Cincinnati, and Avignon (France).

Lee Baird

Lee Baird joined the Tennessee Arts Commission staff in June 2005. He administers the Literary Arts Program for the Commission, which includes managing grants for literary organizations and individual writers and coordinating special literary projects. In addition, as a Grants Analyst, he supervises the agency’s sub-recipient grant monitoring and liaises with grantees to ensure compliance with all contract requirements.

We’re thrilled to welcome you to the Nashville Children’s Theatre on March 2nd beginning at 9:00 a.m. CT for the Poetry Out Loud Tennessee State Finals. Admission is free and open to everyone. A special thanks to the Nashville Children’s Theatre, one of the oldest continually operating professional children’s theatre companies in America, for hosting us!

Poetry Out Loud (POL) is a national recitation competition organized by the Tennessee Arts Commission in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.